Isaiah 44:1-28

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44:1. Masoretic Text: And now hear, Jacob my servant and [you] Israel whom I have chosen.

Septuagint: But now hear, my servant Jacob and [you] Israel whom I have chosen.


Jacob and Israel are parallel designations, for Jacob’s name was changed to Israel after he had wrestled with an angel. (Genesis 32:25-28) In this context, Jacob and Israel denote the descendants of Abraham through his grandson Jacob or Israel. They are called upon to “hear” or to give attention to the word of YHWH conveyed to them through his prophet. As a people, Israel had the honorable distinction of being YHWH’s servant and thus in a unique relationship with him as the God whom they were to serve in carrying out his purpose. YHWH chose Jacob, instead of Esau, for his purpose to have the promised Messiah come through his line. With this choosing of Jacob, his descendants were also chosen as God’s people.

44:2. Masoretic Text: Thus says YHWH who made you and who formed you from the womb, who will help you, Fear not, my servant Jacob and Jeshurun whom I have chosen.

Septuagint: Thus says the Lord God who made you and who formed you from the womb, You will still be helped; fear not, my servant Jacob and [you] beloved Israel whom I have chosen.


As a people consisting of twelve tribes, the nation of Israel had its beginning with Jacob and his twelve sons. While Jacob and his twin brother Esau were yet in the womb of their mother Rebekah, YHWH chose Jacob for his purpose. (Genesis 25:22, 23) Regarded from this standpoint, YHWH made the nation of Israel and formed it from the womb. In this context, the name Jacob is being used as a designation for the Israelites, the people who descended from Jacob. Being YHWH’s servant, they had a dignified standing before YHWH as a people serving his purpose, particularly as it related to the coming of the promised Messiah.

On account of YHWH’s will respecting Jacob or Israel, that is, the people who descended from him, they did not need to fear that they would be annihilated as a people. Their continued existence was essential for the coming of the Messiah through and to them.

Jacob and Jeshurun are parallel designations. The name Jeshurun may mean “upright one,” but this is not certain. It appears to be a poetic name of honor. The Septuagint rendering “beloved Israel” suggests that it may also be a designation that expresses affection. When the people were unfaithful to YHWH, they ruined their relationship with him. They did not reveal themselves as upright or as belonging to him has his beloved people. Accordingly, the name Jeshurun may be regarded as applying to Israel as a repentant people who were truly devoted to him. It is Jeshurun in the truest sense of the name whom YHWH had chosen as his own. The Targum of Isaiah represents YHWH as being well pleased with Jeshurun.

44:3. Masoretic Text: For I will cause water to flow [literally, pour water] in a thirsty land and streams on dry ground. I will pour my spirit upon your seed, and my blessing upon your offspring.

Septuagint: For I will give water for thirst to those traveling in a desert; I will put my spirit upon your seed and my blessings upon your children.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the word ken is written above the verb here translated “I will pour.” With the addition of ken, the reading is, “thus I will pour.”

The Targum of Isaiah reads, “For as waters are given upon a thirsty land, and flow down over the dry ground, so I will give my holy spirit upon your sons and my blessing upon your sons’ sons.”


The reference to the provision of water in an arid region may point to what YHWH would do for his repentant people in supplying them with what they needed when returning to their land from exile. For the “seed” or descendants of Jacob to become the recipients of God’s spirit would mean that his spirit would come to be the motivating power in their lives. Additionally, as a repentant people, they would come to have his blessing, benefiting from his care, guidance, and safeguarding. When the pouring out of the spirit and of the blessings are regarded as being just like the provision of water, the thought conveyed is that of fullness or great abundance.

44:4. Masoretic Text: And they will sprout in among the grass, like willows by flowing water.

Septuagint: And they will sprout like grass in the midst of water and like a willow by flowing water.


The recipients of God’s spirit and blessing would flourish, sprouting like greenery that is abundantly supplied with water and like willows growing alongside a river. In the Targum of Isaiah, they are referred to as the “righteous.”

44:5. Masoretic Text: This one will say, “I am YHWH’s,” and this one will call in the name of Jacob. And this one will write on his hand, “I am YHWH’s” and will betitle himself with the name of Israel.

Septuagint: This one will say, “I am God’s,” and this one will call in the name of Jacob, and another one will write, “I am God’s,” in the name of Israel.

The Hebrew preposition be, rendered “with,” is the same one as also here translated “in.” With the dative (as is here the case), the Greek preposition epí (based on the context) can have various meanings, including “in,” “on,” “on the basis of,” “by,” and “with.”


In the Hebrew text, the word zeh (here rendered “this one”) appears three times, creating a measure of ambiguity for determining how many individuals are represented as making expressions. Translators commonly have been specific in identifying three speakers. “One person will say, ‘I belong to Yahweh,’ another will call himself by Jacob’s name. On his hand another will write, ‘Yahweh’s’ and be surnamed ‘Israel.’” (NJB) “One shall say, ‘I am the LORD’s,’ another shall use the name of ‘Jacob,’ another shall mark his arm ‘of the LORD’ and adopt the name of ‘Israel.’” (Tanakh) According to the Targum of Isaiah, there are three speakers. “One will say, I am one of the fearers of YHWH, and one will pray in the name of Jacob, and one will present his offering before YHWH and draw near in the name of Israel.”

The rendering of the Septuagint could be understood to refer to two persons, as seemingly evident from the one occurrence of the word héteros (“another one”). This may be the preferable significance. Jacob and Israel are parallel designations. In this context, they represent the true Israel, persons who are God’s people. Individuals who say, “I am YHWH’s” would be doing so because of calling “in the name of Jacob.” They would be doing the calling as persons who identified themselves with those who are true Israelites. Those who write “I am YHWH’s” on their hand, thus openly acknowledging themselves as being his servants, would be doing so because of having betitled themselves with the name “Israel” or taken on the identity of those who are Israelites in the real sense of the word. On account of being part of YHWH’s true people, they would be exclusively devoted to him and recognize him alone as the God to whom they belong.

44:6. Masoretic Text: Thus says YHWH, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, YHWH of hosts, I [am] first and I [am] last, and besides me [there is] no god.

Septuagint: Thus says God, the King of Israel who rescued him, God Sabaoth, I [am] first and I [am] after these [things]. Besides me [there] is no god.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, “my name” appears after “hosts” (“YHWH of hosts [is] my name”).

“Sabaoth” is a transliteration of the Hebrew word that means “armies” or “hosts.”


As Israel’s King, YHWH is the Sovereign to whom the people were subject and on whom their security and well-being depended. He is the God who redeemed or rescued them from Egyptian enslavement and would deliver them from exile. No one would succeed in stopping the fulfillment of his purpose respecting his people. This is because he is “YHWH of hosts,” the God with armies or hosts of angels in his service for carrying out his will. He is the first, the only true God, and he is the last. There will never be another god besides him. He is the Eternal One.

44:7. Masoretic Text: And who [is] like me? Let him proclaim [it] and let him announce it and set it in order before me from [the time of] my appointing an eternal people. And let them tell them things to come and what [things are] to be.

Septuagint: Who [is] like me? Let him stand, call, and make ready for me from [the time] I made man for the age. And let them announce to you the coming things before they arrive.

Instead of “before me,” the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah says “before himself,” which could mean that, if there is such a god, that one should prepare himself, setting the proofs of his godship before himself.


The rhetorical question as to whether any “god” is like YHWH constitutes a challenge to the deities that were revered among the various nations. If such a god did exist, he should be able to proclaim his godship by causing the things he foretold to come to pass. He should be able to make an announcement or declaration to this effect and “set in order” or present the evidence before YHWH.

The expression rendered “eternal people” could designate the nation of Israel from the standpoint of YHWH’s having appointed them as his own people in the ancient past, the days of eternity. A number of translations make the application to Israel specific. “Let them say what has happened since I made my nation.” (CEV) “Let him declare and lay out before me what has happened since I established my ancient people.” (NIV) “Let him tell and explain all that has happened since I set up my ancient people.” (NCV)

Another possibility is to understand “eternal people” to designate the human race. As a product of God’s creation, the human race came into existence by his appointment in the ancient past. This significance has the support of the Septuagint, with its reference to the making of “man.”

Therefore, in making their case, the “gods” would have to be able to relate what they had announced in the days of old (either in relation to the appointing of Israel or the human race). These gods should then make known to the people in advance things that are yet to come and what would be certain to take place.

The Septuagint rendering calls upon any god that responds to the challenging question to take his stand and then to call out or proclaim and make ready his proof before God. The presentation should reach back to the time when God created man. Possibly the expression “for the age” or, literally, “into the age” denotes for life in the present age or for continued existence of humans through the procreative process.

44:8. Masoretic Text: Fear not and be not terrified [yaráh]. Have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you [are] my witnesses. Is there a god besides me? And [there] is no Rock. I know not any.

Septuagint: Do not hide yourselves. Did you not from the beginning give ear and I announced [it] to you? You are witnesses if [there] is a god besides me. And [there] were not then.

The Hebrew word here rendered “terrified” is thought to be misspelled but spelled correctly in the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah as a word from the root yaráh, defined as meaning “paralyzed with fear.”

Fourth-century Codex Vaticanus, adds “nor stray” after the words here translated “do not hide yourselves.” In this codex, the last sentence reads, “And they were not listening then.”

The Targum of Isaiah includes no mention of “Rock” but indicates that only the one receiving his strength from YHWH is strong.


The admonition not to give in to fear is addressed to the Israelites. With the unmistakable evidence of the prophetic word and its fulfillment, they had confirmed to them that YHWH alone is the true God on whom they could rely for aid, guidance, and protection. All his promises would be fulfilled without fail. Therefore, the Israelites had no reason to be in dread or to be petrified with fear.

The first rhetorical question reminded them that YHWH had made known in advance what would take place, and his word had been fulfilled. Their ancestor Abraham, for example, had been told that his descendants would come to be enslaved to another nation, would be liberated, and then come to have the land of Canaan as their possession. (Genesis 15:13-16) The Israelites were fully aware that everything had been fulfilled. (Joshua 21:45; 24:16-18) In the centuries subsequent to their liberation from the land of Egypt, YHWH, through his prophets, had revealed significant developments before they came to pass.

Based on the unmistakable evidence of the advance declarations and their fulfillment, the Israelites could serve as witnesses to the reality that YHWH alone is the true God. The gods the other nations worshiped were nonexistent, there being no proof that they had ever declared anything in advance that was unerringly fulfilled. YHWH alone is the “Rock,” for only he can provide the security comparable to a crag in mountainous terrain where one could be out of the reach of danger from enemy threats. YHWH did not know or recognize any god to be such a “rock.”

Perhaps the Septuagint rendering about hiding could refer to going into hiding out of fear. In view of having YHWH as their God, there was no reason for the Israelites to fearfully conceal themselves.

Rahlfs’ printed text ends the sentence with this verse, but others consider the last sentence to continue in verse 9 (which see for comments). Based on Rahlfs’ punctuation, the concluding portion of verse 8 could be understood as follows: “Then,” formerly, or in the beginning, when YHWH made known future developments, no other gods existed.

44:9. Masoretic Text: Those forming an image, all of them, [are] nothingness [tóhu], and their desired things will not benefit. And their witnesses — they see not and know not — so that they may be shamed.

Septuagint: Those forming and carving [are] all nothing, those making their imaginings, which will not benefit them. But they will be shamed,

When the opening words of the Septuagint rendering are considered to be a continuation of the previous verse, the sentence conveys a different meaning. The first two sentences could then be translated, “And [there] were not then those forming and carving. All [were] nothing.”


Idols are the representations of nonexistent deities. Therefore, the labor required to make images was a valueless pursuit. From that standpoint, those fashioning the idols were nothing or useless insofar as producing anything of real worth. In the Hebrew text, the word here rendered “nothingness” is tóhu, which expression is used to designate the unformed or chaotic state of the earth or land before it became suitable for plant, animal, and human life. (Genesis 1:2)

The “desired things” were the idols, the objects in which those who revered them found delight but which brought them no benefit. Being the lifeless representations of nonexistent deities, the images could do absolutely nothing. According to the rendering of the Septuagint, the idols were but the product of human imagination or thought.

Those who adored the images were the witnesses. These worshipers, however, did not see anything or come to know anything that would have put them in a position to function as witnesses for their deities. Being without trustworthy testimony to establish that their gods even existed (let alone had made known significant developments in advance), the idolaters would be put to shame as persons who had trusted in useless objects of human manufacture.

44:10. Masoretic Text: Who has formed a god or cast an image only for [it] not to benefit?

Septuagint: all those forming a god and carving worthless things,


The question in the Hebrew text highlights the folly of fashioning representations of a god or an idol. In no way could a lifeless object be the source of anything that would benefit those who adored it. According to the Septuagint, the thought is linked more directly to the words of the previous verse, identifying those who would be put to shame as being persons who formed a god or carved idols, mere useless or worthless things.

44:11. Masoretic Text: Look! All his associates will be shamed, and the artisans — they [are] only men [’adhám, a collective singular]. Let them all assemble; let them take their stand. They will be in dread; they will be shamed together.

Septuagint: And all dried up from where they came to be, and let all the mute from among men be gathered and stand together, and let them feel shame and be shamed together.


In this context, the Hebrew word designating an “associate” (chaver) could mean a fellow craftsman. This, however, does not appear to be the significance here, for one would expect the master artisan also to be referred to as being put to shame. It seems preferable to understand the “associates” to be devotees of the gods that the images represented. The Targum of Isaiah identifies them as those who serve idols.

Without verifiable evidence that the gods existed and the reality that their lifeless representations were incapable of doing anything, those who venerated them would be put to shame when unmistakably deriving no benefit from them. The artisans who fashioned the idols were merely mortals or earthlings. Therefore, they could only cast or carve lifeless representations, not real deities.

It appears that the artisans and devotees are to assemble before YHWH, taking their stand to present their case for their deities. Before the true God, they would then come to be in fear. They would have nothing to present as proof regarding the deities whom they worshiped. As a consequence, all of them would be put to shame.

If, in the Septuagint, the reference to being “dried up” relates to the artisans who fashioned idols, this could mean that, unlike how they must have felt when first starting their work as refreshed craftsmen, they became hungry and exhausted upon completing their labors on the images. Another possibility is to regard the application to be to idols of wood that dried out just like the wood from which they had been carved. The “mute” could be understood to denote both the artisans and the devotees. As an assembled company standing before YHWH, they would have nothing to say.

44:12. Masoretic Text: An artisan [in] iron [uses] a tool and works [the metal] over the coals, and with hammers he forms it and works it with his strong arm. Also he gets hungry, and his strength fails. He drinks no water and is faint.

Septuagint: For the artisan sharpened the iron [tool]. With an ax, he worked it and with an awl he bored it. And he worked it with his strong arm. And he will get hungry and weak and by no means drink water.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the letter waw (W), meaning “and,” appears as a correction above the Hebrew word here rendered “he forms.” This can then be translated, “An artisan [in] iron [uses] a tool and works [the metal] over the coals and with hammers, and he forms it.”

The two Greek words for “not” are here rendered “by no means” to convey the emphatic sense.


The elliptical nature of the Hebrew text requires adding words to convey a comprehensible meaning. For this reason, translations vary in their interpretive renderings. “The craftsman in iron, with his tools, works it over charcoal and fashions it by hammering, working with the strength of his arm.” (Tanakh) “The blacksmith takes a tool and works with it in the coals; he shapes an idol with hammers, and he forges it with the might of his arm.” (NIV) “The smith fashions an iron image, works it over the coals, shapes it with hammers, and forges it with his strong arm.” (NAB) “A metalworker shapes an idol by using a hammer and heat from the fire. In his powerful hand he holds a hammer, as he pounds the metal into the proper shape.” (CEV) “The blacksmith sharpens a graving tool and hammers out his work hot from the coals and shapes it with his strong arm.” (REB) “The blacksmith makes an axe over the charcoal, beats it into shape with a hammer, works on it with his strong arm.” (NJB)

While translations are not in agreement regarding the details, the basic thought is preserved. When forming an idol, a metal worker makes use of the heat from a fire and uses the tools of his trade to create the image. As a mortal, he needs food and drink. His strength is diminished when he gets hungry. Without anything to drink, he becomes faint. The implication is that a craftsman with these limitations could never fashion a real god, one that was able to supply humans with what they needed.

The reference to sharpening in the Septuagint suggests that the craftsman is being represented as preparing an iron tool for the work to be done, using a hammer and an awl to fashion the idol.

44:13. Masoretic Text: A wood carver stretches out a line. He marks it out with a pointed tool [séred]. He shapes it with carving tools and marks it out with a circling tool. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of an earthling [’adhám, man], to stay in a house.

Septuagint: Having selected wood, the artisan set it up according to measure and joined it with glue. He made it like a man’s form, and like the beauty of a man, to set it up in a house.

In Rahlfs’ printed text, the word here rendered “having selected” is in verse 12.

According to the Targum of Isaiah, the shape of the image is “according to the beauty of a woman who resides in a house.”


There is considerable uncertainty about the meaning of the Hebrew word séred, which is here rendered “pointed tool.” The exact nature of the other tools is likewise uncertain. It appears that the wood carver used a specific tool to mark along the line that had been stretched out to indicate where the wood should be cut. Then, as a guide for the actual task of carving, he used another tool to mark the piece of wood. The final product, the idol, is represented as having the attractive form of a man. Seemingly, to indicate that the idol could not do anything, it is referred to as fashioned to stay or sit in a house.

The Septuagint rendering does not include corresponding words for the tools, and it is not possible to determine to what the initial setting up refers. Possibly the setting up relates to marking the wood to conform to the proper dimensions for carving the idol. According to the Septuagint, the craftsman used glue to join the various carved parts of the image.

44:14. Masoretic Text: One cuts down cedars for himself, or one selects a holm tree [tirzáh] or an oak and lets it become strong for himself among the trees of the forest. One plants a laurel [’óren], and rain makes it grow.

Septuagint: He cut wood from the forest, which the Lord had planted and rain made grow,

For comments regarding the Hebrew word translated “oak,” see Isaiah 2:13.


There is uncertainty about just which trees the Hebrew words tirzáh and ’óren designate. This accounts for a variety of renderings in modern translations.

The basic thought is that the individual would use wood from a variety of trees for firewood and for making images. Trees such as cedars may have been cut down for this purpose, and other trees may have been previously selected or planted for future use.

Translations vary in how they render this verse. “He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it.” (ESV) “He cuts down a cedar tree. Or perhaps he takes a cypress or an oak tree. It might be a tree that grew in the forest. Or it might be a pine tree he planted. And the rain made it grow.” (NIRV) “A man plants a cedar and the rain makes it grow, so that later on he will have a tree to cut down; or he picks out in the forest an ilex or an oak which he will raise into a stout tree for himself.” (REB) “He has cut down cedars, has selected an oak and a terebinth which he has grown for himself among the trees in a forest and has planted a pine tree which the rain has nourished.” (NJB)

The mention of the rain may be an implied rebuke. The one who makes use of the wood to make an idol fails to consider that he had nothing to do with trees growing in a forest or in providing the needed rain for a tree to grow and flourish. He should have been able to recognize that a higher source was involved in making this possible. The Septuagint rendering is specific in identifying the Lord or God as this source.

44:15. Masoretic Text: And it [the wood] is [something] for a man to burn, and he takes from them [parts of the wood] and warms himself. Also he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and bows down to it. He makes it into an image and prostrates himself before it.

Septuagint: so that it might be to men for burning. And having taken [some wood] from it, he warmed himself, and they burned [pieces of wood] and baked [loaves of] bread on them. But the rest they formed into gods and prostrated themselves to them.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the first verb is not a form of “to be,” but that of “to remove” (“and he removes it for a man to burn”). A particle meaning “or” precedes the phrase about making a god.

The Septuagint rendering completes the sentence that began in verse 14. According to this rendering, one of the purposes wood serves is to provide fuel for people to burn.


These words serve to expose the senselessness of idolatry. People burn wood to a keep warm by a fire, to bake bread, and to cook. From the wood of the same tree, a carver fashions a god and assumes the position of a worshiper. He drops to his knees and prostrates himself before the image that represents his deity. The idolater comes to regard wood that flames can consume as possessing powers to provide aid because of having been fashioned into the image of a god.

44:16. Masoretic Text: Half of it [the wood] he burns in the fire. Over the half, flesh [that he prepares] he eats; he roasts a roast and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Ah, I am warm; I have seen the light [of the fire].”

Septuagint: The half of it he burned in the fire; and having burned [the pieces of wood], they baked [loaves of] bread on them. And upon it [the burning wood], he roasted meat to eat and was satisfied. And having warmed himself, he said, “[It is] delightful to me, for I have been warmed and have seen the fire.”

After the word for “fire,” the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah adds as a correction above the line “and over.” According to the reading of this scroll, “and over the half” of the wood is the meat for him to eat, and by the coals he sits and warms himself and says, ‘Ah, I am warm in front of the light [of the fire].”


Half of the portion of the wood that the carver chose for his purposes, he used for fuel and roasted meat. According to the Septuagint rendering, he also baked bread. The man was satisfied from the food he had prepared for himself, and the warmth the fire provided proved to be pleasurable to him. His comment about seeing the “light” of the fire may be understood to mean that he experienced its beneficial effect.

44:17. Masoretic Text: And the rest of it [the wood] he makes into a god, into his image, and prostrates himself to it and bows down to it and prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you [are] my god.”

Septuagint: But the rest [of the wood] he made into a god, a carved thing, and prostrates himself to it and prays, saying, “Deliver me, for you are my god.”

This verse repeats thoughts expressed in verse 15.

Instead of “into his image, and prostrates himself,” the wording of the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah is, “To blocks of wood he prostrates himself.” The Hebrew word for blocks, however, is misspelled, with the waw [W] after the lamed [L] instead of preceding it. There is a possibility that the reading of this scroll could mean that he prostrates himself to the carved images of the Baal gods.


The carver takes the portion of the wood that was not consumed in the flames to fashion a god. Before this representation of his deity, he drops to his knees and bows down in worship, making his petition to be delivered from peril or distress. He acknowledges that the carved object is his god or represents his deity as having the power to provide aid.

44:18. Masoretic Text: They do not know and do not discern, for he has besmeared their eyes from seeing and their hearts from understanding.

Septuagint: They did not know [how] to discern, for they were blurred from seeing with their eyes and from understanding with their heart.


Possibly YHWH is the one who is here said to do the besmearing, blurring, or beclouding. He does not restrain idolaters from following their desires, resulting in their being unable to recognize the senselessness of their ways. (Compare Romans 1:18-25.) They simply do not know or recognize that it makes no sense to attribute supernatural powers to a lifeless object because of its being in the form of a deity that they have never seen. Idolaters fail to discern that there is no difference between the wood that is consumed in the flames and the wood that is in the shape of an imagined deity. Their eyes are blind, and their “hearts” or minds are bereft of proper understanding regarding this.

44:19. Masoretic Text: And no one considers in his heart, and [there is] no knowledge and no discernment to say, “Half of it I have burned in the fire, and also I have baked bread on its coals. I have roasted flesh and eaten. And the rest shall I make into an abomination? Before a block of wood, shall I prostrate myself?

Septuagint: And he has not considered in his heart nor reflected in his soul nor recognized in [his] mind that half of it he burned in the fire and baked bread upon its coals and roasted meat, he ate, and the rest of it he made into an abomination, and they prostrated themselves to it.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), “to say” is repeated. Additionally, the conjunction “and” precedes the phrase about roasting, and the Hebrew word rendered “abomination” is plural.


For one to consider in the “heart” means for one to give thought to a matter. The reference to “his soul” in the Septuagint denotes the individual (“he himself”).

Idolaters did not stop to consider how unreasonable their conduct was. Their reasoning faculties were dulled to the point that they were lacking in the knowledge and discernment that was needed to motivate them to evaluate their actions. It did not occur to them that the same tree from which wood was obtained to serve as the essential fuel for baking and roasting could not possibly be the source of a block of wood that, if carved into the representation of a deity, could come to possess powers superior to that of a human and that it could then rightly be an object of adoration.

The idol is an abomination or a disgusting thing, for it represents a nonexistent deity and is used to adore what man’s imagination has created. This makes it an affront to the Creator.

44:20. Masoretic Text: He feeds [re‘áh] on ashes. A deceived heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver his soul and cannot say, “[Is there] not a lie in my right hand?”

Septuagint: Know that their heart [is] ashes, and they are straying. And no one is able to deliver his soul. Look! Will you not say, “A lie [is] in my right hand”?

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), the final sentence is not a question.

The Targum of Isaiah seems to indicate that some of the same wood of which the idol consisted had been reduced to ashes when it was used for fuel.


The Hebrew word re‘áh, depending on the context, can mean “feed,” “graze,” “tend,” or “pasture.” For this reason, translations vary in their renderings. “He feeds on ashes.” (NIV, NRSV, REB) “He pursues ashes.” (Tanakh) “He is chasing ashes.” (NAB) “He hankers after ashes.” (NJB) The thought may be that what the idolater feeds on (the adoration of the idol from which he seeks to gain strength as one would from food), or the idolatrous course he is pursuing, amounts to nothing more than worthless ashes.

Idolatry involves self-deception, a dulling of the mind to be able to view the idol as representing a deity. The deceived heart, signifying the deluded mind, leads the individual to adopt the folly of idolatry. According to the Septuagint, the “heart” of the idolaters, denoting their mental faculty, is not functioning, for it is valueless ashes, and this is the reason for their straying, engaging in the veneration of idols. The idolater cannot rescue his soul or free himself from the snare of idolatry and the divine disapproval to which it leads. He cannot come to the reasonable conclusion that the idol that he has taken hold of in his hand is a lie, for it is a mere block of wood that represents a nonexistent deity. It is a nothing thing, a falsehood, or a delusion, something that he thinks will help him or safeguard him but which will do nothing for him.

44:21. Masoretic Text: Remember these things, O Jacob and Israel, for you are my servant. I have formed you. You are my servant. O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me.

Septuagint: Remember these things, O Jacob and Israel, for you are my servant. I formed you [as] my servant, and you, O Israel, do not forget me.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll) does not include the conjunction “and” before “Israel.” In this scroll, the last phrase reads, “Do not mislead me.”


Jacob and Israel are parallel designations applying to the people of Israel, the descendants of Jacob whose name was changed to Israel after wrestling with an angel. (Genesis 32:25-29) The things the people are called upon to remember may relate to the folly of making idols and venerating them. If, however, the reference is to what follows, the thought would be that they should recall their position as YHWH’s servant. Idolaters made images of their deities according to their imagination, and these deities did not exist. YHWH, the eternal God, formed Israel as his servant. He made it possible for the descendants of Jacob or Israel to become a nation, and the people were to function as his servant, for through and to them the promised Messiah would come. Whereas the Hebrew text can be understood as YHWH’s assurance that he would not forget his people because of his purpose respecting them, the Septuagint rendering directed Israel not to forget him.

44:22. Masoretic Text: I have wiped out your transgressions like a [dark] cloud and your sins like a cloud. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.

Septuagint: For look, I have wiped out your lawless deeds like a cloud and your sins like darkness. Return to me, and I will redeem you.


Clouds may roll in and darken the sky, but soon they disappear. YHWH mercifully forgives the transgressions or sins of his people, blotting them out like the clouds that the wind blows away. With the assurance of forgiveness, the Israelites are encouraged to return to YHWH as a repentant people, willing to serve him faithfully. The redemption could designate the previous deliverance from Egyptian enslavement or a redemption that was so sure to occur in the future that it could be expressed as an accomplished fact. According to the Septuagint rendering, the redemption is future and could denote the liberation from exile.

44:23. Masoretic Text: Shout [joyfully], O heavens, for YHWH has done it. Cry out, O depths of the earth. Break out, O mountains, with a [joyful] shout, O forest and every tree in it, for YHWH has redeemed Jacob and glorifies himself in Israel.

Septuagint: Rejoice, O heavens, for God has shown mercy to Israel. Trumpet, O foundations of the earth. Cry aloud, O mountains, with rejoicing, O hills and all the trees on them, for God has redeemed Jacob, and Israel will be glorified.


YHWH’s redeeming of Jacob, the descendants of this patriarch or the people of Israel, is to occasion rejoicing in the entire created sphere — the “heavens” or the apparent celestial dome above the earth or land, the depths of the earth, which would include everything below the surface of the ground (hollows, caves, lakes, and seas), and the prominent features of the land — mountains, hills, and trees.

The redeeming may refer to delivering the Israelites from exile. As a restored people, they would cease to be in a state of humiliation and thus, according to the reading of the Septuagint, would be glorified or come to enjoy a beauteous condition under YHWH’s protection and care. By redeeming his people, he would glorify himself in Israel as the God who fulfills his promises. With the land being again inhabited, it would cease to be in a neglected state as if in mourning but would take on a joyful appearance. Thus every feature of the land could be represented as being called upon to rejoice.

44:24. Masoretic Text: Thus says YHWH, your Redeemer and your Former from the womb. I [am] YHWH, [the one] doing everything, stretching out the heavens alone, spreading out the earth (Who was with me?),

Septuagint: Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer and your Former from the womb. I [am] the Lord, the one completing everything. I alone stretched out heaven and made the earth firm.

The last two words in Rahlfs’ printed text of the Septuagint are the opening words for the question that is finished in the next verse. They have been omitted here but will be included in verse 25 to form a complete sentence.


In view of the identification of YHWH as Israel’s Former from the womb, it appears that his role as the Redeemer goes back to the time the people were liberated from Egyptian enslavement in the time of Moses. YHWH formed the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob into a nation; they owed their existence to him from the “womb,” or from the very start when he chose their forefather Jacob, instead of Esau, for his purpose. He revealed himself to them by his name — YHWH. This included making known his attributes and acting in a special way for their benefit. (Compare Exodus 34:5-7.)

Unlike the images that represented nonexistent deities that do nothing, YHWH, as the Creator, did everything. Heaven or the sky appears like a celestial dome and, therefore, is referred to as having been stretched out. Land areas extend for great distances and so are spoken of as having been spread out. No other gods were involved in any way with bringing everything into existence, for no such gods as idolaters venerated existed at that time. YHWH completed everything alone. No one (no god) was with him. The Septuagint rendering about making the “earth” or land firm could mean that the land was firmly established above the sea.

44:25. Masoretic Text: frustrating the signs of oracles [bad] and deranging diviners, turning wise men backward and making [literally, “turning”] their knowledge foolish,

Septuagint: Who else will frustrate the signs of ventriloquists [literally, “speakers from the belly”] and the divinations from the heart, turning the wise to the back parts and their counsel to foolishness,

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the plural form of the Hebrew word bad appears as a correction above the line of the main text, as also does the Hebrew word for “wise men.”


In this context, the plural form of the Hebrew word bad could designate false prophets or oracular priests. Their utterances would prove to be empty talk. YHWH would frustrate or expose as deceptive and unreliable whatever signs these charlatans may have performed in an attempt to add weight to their words. He would nullify the predictions and advice of diviners, causing them to behave like persons who have lost their senses. YHWH would turn wise men backward or to the “back parts” (LXX), driving them to the rear and thus depriving them of the position in the forefront as trusted and dependable advisers. Their knowledge or “counsel” (LXX) would prove to be worthless or foolish when sound advice was needed to deal with perils. This may allude to the inability of the diviners and wise men of Babylon to foresee the threat to the city from the forces the Persian king Cyrus and to offer a plan for dealing with this serious peril.

The Septuagint rendering about divinations “from the heart” could mean that the divinations had their source in the diviner. They originated in his “heart” or were a product of his own thinking.

44:26. Masoretic Text: confirming the word of his servant and fulfilling the counsel of his messengers, the one saying of Jerusalem, “She will be inhabited,” and of the cities of Judah, “They will be rebuilt, and I will raise up their ruins.”

Septuagint: and confirming the words of his servant and verifying the counsel of his messengers? [I am] the one saying to Jerusalem, “You will be inhabited,” and to the cities of Judah, “You will be rebuilt,” and her desolate places he will let rise up.


The singular “servant” could designate the prophet Isaiah. His words did not originate with him but came to him by divine revelation, and YHWH would confirm these words upon bringing about their fulfillment. Likewise, he would fulfill or establish as true what his messengers or his prophets had declared or counseled, for the events that would develop would prove that they had made known the right course for the people to take and that they had spoken the truth.

YHWH purposed that desolated Jerusalem would again become an inhabited city and that the destroyed cities of Judah would be rebuilt. Exiled Israelites would return to their land. Houses and other structures would then be rebuilt, thus rising from the ruins. YHWH is the one who would make this possible and, for this reason, the raising up of the ruins or the desolate places is attributed to him.

44:27. Masoretic Text: [I am] the one saying to the deep, “Be dry, and I will dry up your rivers.”

Septuagint: [I am] the one saying to the abyss, “You will be desolated, and I will dry up your rivers.”


The Targum of Isaiah applies these words to Babylon and says that “it will be laid waste.” Based on this interpretation, the “deep” or “abyss” would be Babylon, which constituted what appeared to be a vast chasm that stood in the way of any possibility for Israelite exiles to return to their land.

If the account of the ancient Greek Historian Herodotus is to be trusted (which has been called into question), the “deep” or the “abyss” (LXX) could refer to the Euphrates River that coursed through Babylon and functioned as a significant part of the city’s defenses. The “rivers” that would be dried up could refer to the Euphrates and its waters that were channeled into a deep moat around the entire city and into canals inside the city.

Herodotus (I, 190, 191) indicates that Cyrus, the Persian king who undertook the conquest of Babylon, resorted to what could be called a drying up of Babylon’s “rivers.” “Cyrus, with the first approach of the ensuing spring, marched forward against Babylon. The Babylonians, encamped without their walls, awaited his coming. A battle was fought at a short distance from the city, in which the Babylonians were defeated by the Persian king, whereupon they withdrew within their defenses. Here they shut themselves up, and made light of his siege, having laid in a store of provisions for many years in preparation against this attack; for when they saw Cyrus conquering nation after nation, they were convinced that he would never stop, and that their turn would come at last.

“Cyrus was now reduced to great perplexity, as time went on and he made no progress against the place. In this distress either some one made the suggestion to him, or he bethought himself of a plan, which he proceeded to put in execution. He placed a portion of his army at the point where the river enters the city, and another body at the back of the place where it issues forth, with orders to march into the town by the bed of the stream, as soon as the water became shallow enough: he then himself drew off with the unwarlike portion of his host, and made for the place where [legendary former queen] Nitocris dug the basin for the river, where he did exactly what she had done formerly: he turned the Euphrates by a canal into the basin, which was then a marsh, on which the river sank to such an extent that the natural bed of the stream became fordable.

“Hereupon the Persians who had been left for the purpose at Babylon by the riverside entered the stream, which had now sunk so as to reach about midway up a man’s thigh, and thus got into the town. Had the Babylonians been apprised of what Cyrus was about, or had they noticed their danger, they would never have allowed the Persians to enter the city, but would have destroyed them utterly; for they would have made fast all the street gates which gave access to the river, and mounting upon the walls along both sides of the stream, would so have caught the enemy, as it were, in a trap. But, as it was, the Persians came upon them by surprise and so took the city. Owing to the vast size of the place, the inhabitants of the central parts (as the residents at Babylon declare) long after the outer portions of the town were taken, knew nothing of what had chanced, but as they were engaged in a festival, continued dancing and reveling until they learned about the capture. Such, then, were the circumstances of the first taking of Babylon.”

The mention of the leveling of elevations or “mountains” (LXX) in verse 2 of chapter 45, however, argues against viewing Babylon as the “deep” and the “rivers” as the Euphrates, streams and canals associated with the city. It appears preferable to regard the words as referring to the removal of seemingly insurmountable obstacles from before Cyrus in his carrying out what YHWH had purposed for him to accomplish as his instrument — the conquest of Babylon and the liberation of Israelite exiles so that they could return to their land and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.

44:28. Masoretic Text: [I am] the one saying of Cyrus, “He is my shepherd and all my pleasure he will fulfill, even saying of Jerusalem, “She will be rebuilt,” and of the temple, “You will be founded [anew].”

Septuagint: [I am] the one saying to Cyrus to be wise, and all my wishes he will perform; the one saying to Jerusalem, “You will be rebuilt, and I will found my holy house [anew].”

The Targum of Isaiah represents YHWH as promising to give the kingdom to Cyrus.


YHWH is represented as having designated Cyrus as “my shepherd.” This may be understood to mean that Cyrus is the ruler YHWH had chosen to carry out his purpose respecting the desolate city of Jerusalem and the destroyed temple there.

According to the Septuagint, Cyrus is directed to be wise, which could mean that he was to demonstrate wisdom in carrying out YHWH’s good pleasure or his wishes. The Persian monarch does appear to have been an exceptional man with a remarkable capacity for wisdom. In the first century CE, Pliny the Elder (Natural History, VII, xxiv) referred to him as having had an exceptional memory, being able to call every soldier in his army “by his own name.”

YHWH’s purpose was for the city of Jerusalem and the temple to be rebuilt, and Cyrus proved to be his chosen instrument for issuing the decree to accomplish this. (Compare Ezra 1:2-4.)